Any of Us Can Be a Citizens Archivist

Go to the National Archives and Records Administration Citizen Archivist website and experiment with one of the tasks.  Blog about your experience and the Citizen Archivist project as a whole.

The National Archives and Records Administration’s Citizen Archivist website provides great examples of several innovations in the evolving field of digital history. The National Archives website in general is well constructed and visually engaging. It is clear that the goal is not simply to house historical documents, but to engage the public, both professionals and the rest of us, in an interactive experience. The Teachers’ Resources section, for example, provides teachers at all levels with tools to utilize historic documents in the classroom, in a variety of ways. The Citizen Archivist section seems to build on the example of Wikipedia, in the sense of inviting anyone to involve themselves in contributing in a variety of ways to the work of the National Archives. Anyone who is up to the challenge of transcribing sometimes difficult-to-decipher handwriting is invited to do just that. And for those of us for whom that task isn’t appealing, but who nevertheless get excited about reading historic documents and particularly historic correspondence, the opportunity to tag documents is attractive.

I reviewed several documents that had already been transcribed and found particularly interesting the almost daily letters from Harry Truman to his wife, Bess, over several decades. It is striking that so much correspondence is available, including long before Truman entered politics. And it is interesting to see how much substantive discussion of current events and issues are addressed in those letters.

Then I looked into the Tagging Missions and tagged several World War II posters. This was a good reminder of the importance of properly describing, and tagging, digital images in order for those descriptions and tags to be of optimal use to researchers.

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